One of my favourite Christmas carols is “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”.  Notice how it is properly written, with a comma after ‘merry’.  By looking into the punctuation and meaning of the words, we can see what this carol means.  One old English meaning of rest is to keep or stay.  The word ‘merry’ had a much different meaning when this carol was written.  A man who was merry was a companion in arms or a knight.  It also carried the idea of someone who is brave and mighty.  Knowing this, the title is a greeting to the gentlemen with the admonition that God keep them brave and mighty.  The rest of the song can now take on a deeper meaning knowing what the title and first lines mean.

    It also gives a deeper meaning for the greeting of ‘Merry Christmas”.  Depending on the meaning of merry you choose to use, it could be wishing someone a happy Christmas or you could be wanting them to have a strong or mighty Christmas.  Personally I like the latter.  I know it’s a bit early, but I would still like to wish all a Merry Christmas.

Published by Ray Richards